Doug Lawrence

Street Wise

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On this CD, Doug Lawrence argues convincingly for the viability of the classic sax/organ/guitar quartet, playing his tenor sax with a smooth, hip swagger while honoring his colleagues by giving them plenty of room to navigate the seven pieces in the program. Even though Lawrence is not yet an old-timer (46 as this is written), he is more than a revivalist; he has been immersed in this music for more than 20 years, and he handles it with respect but no undue reverence. And while his roots may be substantially in big band swing (he leads a popular dance band orchestra in Chicago), he is clearly very much at home with hard bop and soul-jazz. A few post-bop Coltranisms even creep into his playing occasionally (particularly during the idiosyncratic modal ending to "Hello Young Lovers"), but among Lawrence's chief virtues are his economy and restraint, so you'll get no extended blowing or experimental techniques from him on this recording -- nor on any of his others, probably. The song selection on this CD provides ample evidence of Lawrence's sources of inspiration: compositions from tenor sax standout Lucky Thompson, a contemporary of Charlie Parker ("Spanyola"); primo Hammond B3 organist brother Jack McDuff ("Mellow Gravy"); and saxman Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson ("Mr. Clean"). Other obvious influences would include Stanley Turrentine (especially in his pairings with B3 pioneer Jimmy Smith), Dexter Gordon, and even Lester Young. Lawrence also contributes an original composition ("What For"), and there are two standards -- "Hello Young Lovers" and "A Portrait of Jenny" -- the latter of which demonstrates Lawrence's silky way with a ballad. Together, Ray Macchiarola (guitar), Dan Trudell (Hammond B3 organ), and George Fludas (drums) synchronize with Lawrence to create the sound of a working group, rather than mere backup for the leader. Macchiarola and Trudell are given a good share of solo space, and Trudell distinguishes himself in particular, with a pianistic attack and both energy and finesse on the up-tempo selections.

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